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Community mourns teacher Michelle Vargas who died saving son

MIAMI - A community is in mourning after learning a beloved teacher lost her life. 

People who worked with special education teacher Michelle Vargas say she was truly one of the great ones.

"You don't replace people like Michelle Vargas. These are teachers that come around rarely," said Cutler Bay Middle School Principal Ignacio Rodriguez.

Cutler Bay Middle School Principal Ignacio Rodriguez told CBS 4 that Vargas was a master at working with youth who have special needs. In addition to teaching 6th, 7th and 8th grades, she was special education teacher and also taught as part of the youth empowerment program.

"Michelle was a unique individual. She really had a passion for working with students with learning disabilities. She had patience, she had understanding, she had a way of connecting with her students that was just beyond a normal teacher," said Principal Rodriguez.

Principal Rodriguez told CBS4 that Rodriguez lost her life over the holiday weekend. She was in El Salvador with her son celebrating her 49th birthday and visiting family. On Sunday she was swimming at the beach with her son who has autism. When he started swimming toward deep water she went after him, but a rip current took her under. Her body resurfaced a few hours later. 

Vargas lost her life saving her 10-year-old son.

"She would give you the shirt off her back if she needed too," said Rodriguez.

People who knew Michelle Vargas described her as kind, a gifted educator and mentor to other teachers. She leaves behind a son, husband and a family of teachers and students to cherish her memory.

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